It’s always a great feeling introducing your friends to one another – people from different parts of your life who don’t know each other but who you are certain will hit it off. Nowadays, of course, it’s easier than it’s ever been. Social media may be much maligned, but it’s a far more convenient way of getting people together than trying to find a mutually agreeable date and place for you all to have dinner or hoping you’ll coincide at a party.
Last week this happened with two friends of mine from different areas of my life. One is a translator I’ve never actually met in person. I connected with him on Facebook because of our shared profession and also because he and I happen to support the same football team. The other is a person I was at school with more than 40 years ago. I don’t think I’ve seen her in person for at least 35 years, but I was very pleased to find her not long ago on Facebook.
When I noticed they were talking, I imagined they must know each other from somewhere, which wouldn’t be so surprising, as they would have been living for some years in more or less the same part of England. So I asked them to tell me what their connection was. It turned out, though, that they didn’t know one another at all. “The connection is you, Simon” I was told. I liked that. “He connected people” would be an epitaph to be proud of.
This sort of thing happens professionally too. I’m always delighted to connect good translators who happen to be friends of mine with my best clients. Like last week, when one client told me they needed a French to Spanish translator. I had no hesitation in putting them in touch with someone I’ve known and worked with for many years. We met at a Christmas party organised by the Catalan translators’ association APTIC and we’ve been passing one another work ever since. Mostly she’s a client of mine, but she’s also done translations for me, and I knew she was exactly the right person to meet my client’s needs. Introductions were made and the job was done.
It works both ways, of course. The majority of my new clients – some of them very good ones – come in this way, through personal recommendation. Last year, I was recommended by a colleague to a direct client in France. Although I translate from French and there is a French version of my website, it’s highly unlikely this client would ever have found me any other way. But we’ve developed a very good relationship and they’re supplying me with regular, interesting work, so I was very pleased with the introduction.
Sometimes, social media connections provide help that’s absolutely invaluable. During the first months of the pandemic, I was translating a novel about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster set in Ukraine and Catalonia. The author had included a number of Ukrainian words, or what she thought were Ukrainian words. But often she had more or less invented the transliteration into Catalan, making it difficult to work out what they should be – especially for someone like me who knows no Ukrainian whatsoever. After I mentioned on Facebook that I was looking for advice on Ukrainian, I was contacted by a translator who couldn’t have been more helpful. After every chapter, I sent her a list of all the supposedly Ukrainian words and she sent me back another list of what they ought to be, correctly transliterated into English. Her work was painstaking and perfect – just what I needed. But when I asked her to invoice me for the time she’d spent on the work, she point blank refused. I told her I’d return the favour one day. How I wish I could do that now, as she sits in a basement in Lviv with her cats, wondering where the next Russian shell is going to fall!
I’m thinking of another online friend too, a lovely, cultured interpreter with an infectious love of life. My friend, who happens to be Russian, has been silent on social media ever since her country invaded Ukraine. I can only imagine how she’s feeling. Maybe she thinks she’s not justified in posting anything at all in the current situation. Maybe she doesn’t want to be criticised or insulted for her nationality. And I think how great it would be if one day I could connect her with my Ukrainian friend. If they don’t already know each other, I’m sure they’d get on. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to be possible any time soon.